I am a strict Roman Catholic as far as movies are concerned. To me this means that the spirit of the form — the poetry, the art, the highs, the transcendence, the sublime craft aspects, the things I’ll remember about them until my dying day and perhaps even beyond — is what matters above all. Roman Catholics don’t “like” or “enjoy” movies; they need them like food and sex and air. No idol-worshipping, no cheap crap. Total committment to the cloth.
The rest of what constitutes life in this town — the personalities, the advertising income, the politics, the unions, the arguments, the nuts and bolts, the begging — eat up much or most of our time, and are obviously necessary to keep the ball in the air and the wheels turning, but if you don’t have that Roman Catholic blood to begin with, you’re not really “of the spirit” and you’re basically just leeching off the passion of others.
The leechers are the Philistines, of course, and they, I believe, are the ones who have 90% or 95% of the big-studio jobs and almost all the jobs in the talent agencies and the big p.r. agencies. Some of my best friends are Philistines, but the cancer that’s plaguing this industry today is directly attributable to the fact that there are way too many Philistines in too many positions of power today. All they seem to recognize or respond to are remakes and cheap highs and CGI and fast money. If Irving Thalberg or Dore Schary or even Daryl F. Zanuck were to come back to earth and take a reading of this town as it really is right now, they’d be appalled. They’d be staggering around and holding their throats.
Say what you will about Harvey Weinstein, but he’s a Catholic through and through. How many serious Catholic producers do we have these days? Bob Berney is a Catholic; so are Michael Barker and Tom Benard; so are Eammon Bowles and John Sloss. There are several Catholic publicists out there (Fredel Pogodin, Michael Lawson, Melody Korenbrot, etc.), but they’re very much in the minority. Certainly if you include the ones who personally represent talent. Catholic studio execs are even fewer and farther between. Nina Jacobson was one. Michael London may have been one all along, but he didn’t seem to really walk and talk Catholic until he left his big-studio job with 20th Century Fox. Who else?
Is Quentin Tarantino a Philistine or a Catholic? He obviously began as a Catholic, but now? With plans to make Faster Pussycat Kill Kill! with Britney Spears? (Which I can’t wait to see, I’m ashamed to say.)
I’m saying this because a friend of some decades who knows the big-studio psychology backwards and forwards said last weekend that the big-studio guys are so completely Philistine in their attitudes that it isn’t funny any more. They’re a completely cloistered culture, and their values haven’t taken them any farther than caring about the next quarterly earnings report and the bonuses that will result from this. They don’t give a damn about anything except fortifying themselves, and they regard serious Catholics the way ancient Romans used to regard Christians in the days of Androcles and the Lion — as if they’re slightly touched in the head.
The climate in the big studios has always been predatory (ask Budd Schulberg or Rod Serling about that) but these days it’s really about “get yours and cash out” and too bad about the smell of lizard or elephant farts in your wake. To these guys a Catholic life is for simps and suckers. If you ask me the souls of big-studio Philistines are reflected or perhaps embodied in the absolute spiritual emptiness of so many big-ass movies today.
My friend said that corporate Philistines know only one thing — fear. Not just fear about what movies to make, but about the generational-values divide between the boomers and older GenXers and the under-35 YouTube/gamer/comic-book generation, whose leaders have their own way of perceiving the culture and have fashioned their own spiritual-religious creeds that they live and work by.
One result is that experienced filmmakers — particularly those over 45 or 50 — are terrified that they might one day be regarded as clueless or redundant by the up-and-coming YouTubers, and so they’re scampering to the tune of terror being played by the 45-and-older big-studio execs. And it’s hell — it’s an atmosphere made in hell because nobody knows what to say or do. Fear has always been an undercurrent in this town, but the vibe has reached breathtaking new levels in the 21st Century.